The ghosts featured in the film computer-generated imagery. It's much darker in tone comparison to the cartoons and comics, especially with its theme of death as well as addressing Casper's own death.
The film's featured Carrigan Crittenden (Cathy Moriarty) and her bumbling henchman (Eric Idle) ask a "ghost therapist" (Bill Pullman) to exorcise the spectral inhabitants of haunted house fabled to contain treasure. Casper, the spirit of a deceased 12-year-old according to the film, befriends the therapist's young daughter (Christina Ricci). Notably, this film is the only time an official insight is provided as to how Casper died and turned into a ghost.
The film led to an animated television spin-off entitled The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper, which featured the same voice actors as the film with Dan Castellaneta and Kath Soucie voicing Pullman and Ricci's characters. Casper and his uncles were later animated with computer-generated imagery in the films Casper: A Spirited Beginning, Casper Meets Wendy, Casper's Haunted Christmas and Casper's Scare School which do not follow the same plot line as this film.
The film opens in the town of Friendship, Maine with two young boys (Chauncey Leopardi and Spencer Vrooman) entering creepy, old mansion called Whipstaff Manor, apparently on a dare to get a picture of a ghost. However, they are scared away by Casper (voice of Malachi Pearson).
Meanwhile, the ruthless Carrigan Crittenden (Cathy Moriarty), is infuriated when she discovers that her recently deceased wealthy father gave his entire fortune to environmental causes and that all he has left to her is Whipstaff Manor. However, when she throws the will into the fireplace, a secret message is revealed that states Whipstaff Manor has treasure hidden inside. Along with Paul "Dibs" Plutzker, Carrigan travels to Whipstaff Manor and enters the house, where Casper and his beastly uncles The Ghostly Trio (voices of Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey, and Brad Garrett) reveal themselves. Carrigan and Dibs hire a priest (Don Novello) and a ghostbuster (Dan Aykroyd), but both are unsuccessful. Carrigan even hires demolition team to tear down the house, but the Ghostly Trio scares them away as well.
Eventually, Casper sees a news story about Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman), who explains that ghosts are simply spirits that have unfinished business on Earth and that as an "afterlife therapist" he tries to help ghosts come to terms with their "unfinished business" so they can cross over into the next world. Dr. Harvey has become an afterlife therapist in an effort to find the ghost of his late wife Amelia, but his teenage daughter Kathleen "Kat" Harvey (Christina Ricci) is disappointed that she never gets to stay very long in any school, thus not being able to make any lasting friends. This convinces Casper to use his ghostly powers, to draw the news story to the attention of Carrigan, and has her hire Dr. Harvey.
Just before the Harveys arrive at Whipstaff Manor, Dr. Harvey promises Kat that his next assignment will be his last and they seal the agreement as a pinky promise. Once they reach the house, they encounter Carrigan and Dibs. Carrigan is against to discover that it may take long time for Dr. Harvey to get rid of the ghosts.
The Harveys enter the house and Kat goes upstairs herself to find a bedroom for herself. Casper tries to
work up the courage to speak to her, but gets her attention by accident and scares her. Her father runs upstairs to see what's wrong, but he is as terrified by the sight of a real ghost as she is. Dr. Harvey frantically takes his daughter into a closet and tells her to stay there while he confronts the ghosts himself.
Meanwhile, the Ghostly Trio arrive home from a night's hauntings. Casper tries to stall them by convincing them to eat outside, but they realize that he's trying to keep them out of the house and shoot him into the sky like a rubber band. With Casper out of the way, the trio finds Dr. Harvey and begin attacking him. He ends up fighting them, but he eventually discovers that he can defeat them by sucking them up with a vacuum cleaner.The next morning, Kat enters the kitchen, first clearing the area with a hand-held vacuum. Casper meets her there and manages to explain to her that he's a friendly ghost. As Casper serves Kat breakfast and entertains her with questions about what it's like to be a ghost, the two begin to bond. Kat's father, apparently still agitated from last night, arrives a bit later, but when the Ghostly Trio arrive, they become angry at Casper for serving the "intruders" first. Kat tries to defend Casper, but her father hurries her off to school.
At school, Kat is not treated well by the students, particularly Amber Whitmire (Jessica Wesson). When Kat tells the other students she lives at Whipstaff Manor, they are shocked to discover that she actually lives inside the haunted mansion. Much to Amber's chagrin the class votes to have the Halloween party at Whipstaff Manor.
Meanwhile, Casper follows Kat to school, sneaks in her classroom, and ties all the other kids shoelaces together, so that they all trip when the bell rings to get back at them for their treatment of Kat. In their first session with him, the Ghostly Trio trash several of Dr. Harvey's possessions. Dr. Harvey lets them do this, but puts a stop to their attempts at destroying a photograph of his wife. To his surprise, the trio display an awareness of Amelia and he asks them whether they have a way of contacting others of their kind. They tell him that it involves a lot of difficult paperwork, but that they'll manage it if he keeps "that ghoul Crittenden off our backs."
Meanwhile, Victor "Vic" DePhillippi (Garette Ratliff Henson) asks Kat to the Halloween dance and she agrees. Vic, however, is revealed to be in cahoots with Amber, who wants to get back at Kat, although he shows that he doesn't like the idea. Casper shows signs of being jealous of Vic, but Kat is insistent that she can't go to the Halloween dance with a ghost. In order to impress her, Casper takes her to a lighthouse. When she asks him about his life, he realizes that he doesn't remember any of it and sadly informs her that, when you're a ghost, none of that really matters anymore.
Kat speaks to her father about how she wants to look "date nice" at the dance with Vic. He tells that he would love to buy her whatever she wants, but says that he won't get any money until Carrigan pays him. Later, the Ghostly Trio observe him packing his things. Fearing that he may be moving out, they decide to give him "our own prescription" and take him to a bar. Taking advantage of the Ghostly Trio being out of the house, Carrigan and Dibs enter the house to search for the treasure.
Meanwhile, Kat finds some of Casper's old possessions from when he was alive and he starts to remember his life. He takes Kat up to the attic, where he discovers an old sled. This causes him to remember how he died and he tells Kat:
|“||I begged and begged my dad to give me this sled, but he acted like I couldn't even have it, because I didn't know how to ride. But then one morning, I came down for breakfast and there it was, just for me, for no reason at all. I took it out, went sledding all day. My dad said "that's enough," but I couldn't stop I was having so much fun. It got late...got dark...got cold...and I got sick. My dad got sad...||”|
Casper and Kat find an old newspaper article that explains how Casper's father, a great inventor, built a machine called the Lazarus that can bring ghosts back to life. Casper takes Kat to his father's secret laboratory, which is filled with various steampunk-esque contraptions, including the Lazarus. Carrigan and Dibs follow, finding that the laboratory also contains the vault leading to the treasure. Meanwhile, Kat finds a glass capsule containing just enough of what Casper describes as "kind of an instant primordial soup mix" to bring one ghost back to life. Unable to open the vault, Carrigan and Dibs steal the capsule, realizing that if one of them were to die, they could go through the vault door, get the treasure and come back to life using the Lazarus. Unable to decide which one of them should die, they make several attempts to kill each other. This culminates with Carrigan falling off the edge of a cliff to an embarrassing death. She instantly reappears as a monstrous ghost, flies into the laboratory and grabs the treasure chest inside the vault. Casper is in shock claiming that it's his treasure but Carrigan bellows "you mean MY treasure". Kat is shocked to see Miss Crittenden as a ghost. Carrigan even makes a joke about her own death when Kat asks if it is her. "In the flesh.. well in a couple of minutes" and does an evil laugh. Dibs soon reappears and shows Carrigan the capsule to help her remember that after getting the treasure she would want to come back to life. Kat realizes that Dibs stole the capsule and claims it was for Casper. Carrigan laughs and disagrees as she orders Dibs to revive her.
Just as he approaches Casper reclaims the capsule from Dibs, knocks him into the moat of the laboratory, and takes Kat upstairs so she can welcome the kids who have arrived for the Halloween party. Casper and Kat return to the laboratory where Kat stops Casper from confronting Dibs for opening his treasure. They install the potion into the Lazarus only to find Carrigan inside the machine telling Casper that it is her turn in the oven. Feeling she has been dead long enough, Carrigan rudely demands Dibs to revive her. However, Dibs has finally grown tired of her constant abuse. He holds the capsule and makes a joke about how Carrigan is six feet under and basically just worm food. He decides that he likes her better deceased and intends to keep the treasure for himself. He also acts as if he is going to destroy the capsule, sealing Carrigan’s fate. Carrigan watches as he attempts to destroy the capsule and gasps, knowing it would be her only chance to ever be alive again. She had intended her ghostly presence to only be temporary. She quickly berates Dibs threatening him that if he destroys the capsule, she would be forced to remain a ghost and would haunt him for the rest of his life. Unbothered by the dead woman’s threats, he continues to laugh as he betrays her. She then throws him out a laboratory window. Carrigan catches the capsule in the air. Her arrogance returns as she once again thinks she has the upper hand. Still knowing there is only one red capsule and thus only one ghost will be allowed to come back to life, they decide to trick Carrigan. Casper and Kat point out that people only become ghosts because they have "unfinished business" and ask Carrigan what her own is. Unsure what Unfinished Business is, Carrigan declares that she lacks unfinished business, saying that she has her treasure and her mansion. She does an evil laugh again, but this suddenly causes her to begin crossing over to the afterlife. Carrigan is not ready to be permanently dead. Terrified, she begs and pleads trying to reverse the process. Unfortunately for Carrigan, her Unfinished Business has been satisfied and she has exhausted all her reasons to remain on earth. Finally she explodes as she is ejected to the afterlife for the rest of eternity. The capsule she was holding flies through the air, but before it could hit the ground, Kat manages to catch it.
The treasure chest falls to the floor and opens, revealing the "treasure" was actually a baseball autographed by Duke Snider, Casper’s favorite player (which would’ve shocked and angered Carrigan if she’d gotten a chance to see it).
Meanwhile, Dr. Harvey, out at a bar with the Ghostly Trio, gets drunk and falls into an open trench. Now a ghost himself, he flies into the laboratory with the Ghostly Trio. As a ghost, he is now loud and goofy like the trio, but he apparently lacks memory of his daughter. Kat shockingly asks the trio what they have done to him and Stretch responds with "Nothing. He's just a little....dead." While Casper's uncles are very pleased with this, Kat is driven to tears. However, when she makes the gesture of the pinky promise with her ghostly father, he finally remembers her; Casper realizes that Dr. Harvey must be brought back to life, thereby making it so Casper remains a ghost.
With her father brought back to life, Kat goes back upstairs again — this time to join the party. Amber and Vic sneak into the house planning to freak Kat out by dressing up as a huge ghostly creature, obviously unaware that Kat lives with real ghosts. However, they encounter the Ghostly Trio, who scare them and cause them to run wildly out into the foyer. Their costume falls apart, ruining their prank, but they keep running, much to the confusion of Kat and the applause of the other students.
Amelia Harvey (Amy Brenneman) appears to Casper, revealing that she became an angel instead of a ghost. For his selfless act of bringing Dr. Harvey back to life instead of himself, she allows Casper to become alive again until ten for the Halloween party as a "sort of a Cinderella deal."
Amelia later appears to her husband and explains to him that, because he and Kat loved her so well when she was alive, she had no unfinished business and tells him to not let her become his.
The human Casper (Devon Sawa) heads downstairs, joins the party and dances with Kat, but he turns back into a ghost just when he and Kat kiss, freaking out all the other kids and causing them to run wildly out of the mansion. Kat wryly comments that that "wasn't bad for my first party," but her father tells her that the party isn't over yet, and the Ghostly Trio begin playing rock and roll music.
The disembodied voice of Little Richard sings the theme song to "Casper the Friendly Ghost" as Casper, Kat and Dr. Harvey dance together and the end credits start to roll.
- Malachi Pearson as the voice of Casper McFadden
- Devon Sawa as Casper McFadden (human form)
- Christina Ricci as Kathleen Harvey
- Bill Pullman as Dr. James Harvey
- Joe Nipote as the voice of Stretch
- Joe Alaskey as the voice of Stinkie
- Brad Garrett as the voice of Fatso
- Cathy Moriarty as Carrigan Crittenden
- Eric Idle as Paul Plutzker
- Ben Stein as Rugg
- Spencer Vrooman as Andreas
- Chauncey Leopardi as Nicky
- Wesley Thompson as Mr. Curtis
- Amy Brenneman as Amelia Harvey
- Garette Ratliff Henson as Vic DePhillippi
- Jessica Wesson as Amber Whitmire
- Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci
- Dan Aykroyd as Ray Stantz
- Clint Eastwood as Himself
- Rodney Dangerfield as Himself
- Mel Gibson as Himself
- John Kassir as the voice of the Crypt Keeper
- Brock Winkless performed the puppetry for the Crypt Keeper in the film
- Steven Spielberg (cameo cut)
Plot holes and contradictions
According to the film's trailer, Casper has been dead for over one hundred years, but the fact that he owns a baseball autographed by Duke Snider, which, presumably, he got while he was still alive, means he could not have died any earlier than the 1940s. However, earlier in the film Mr. Rugg (Ben Stein) said that Whipstaff Manor was "lousy fifty years ago...now it's condemned." The film was made in the 1990s, so fifty years ago would be the 1940s, making the house "lousy" while Casper was still living. Alternatively, Casper's father got it for him after Casper died. In Casper: A Spirited Beginning, he dies in the present day, though it must be kept in mind that this movie is set in a different universe to the 1995 movie. Furthermore, this means that Whipstaff Manor is, apparently, condemned, making it unclear how the Harveys can be allowed to live there, especially after Crittenden's death since she legally owned the house and they were only living in it under her authority.
The Spooktacular New Adventures Of Casper mentions that Casper is 112 years old, turning 113 in April. It also mentions that Casper took an interest in baseball after he died because he used to travel around collecting Baseball Players autographs. It's possible that Casper placed the Duke Snider baseball in the vault an simply forgot about it's location. The series also mentions that the Harvey's own Whipstaff manor.
Carrigan and Dibs are seen walking down the chair's track into the McFadden laboratory, while, earlier, they were riding in the chair. Also, the fact that they were in the chair at all is strange considering that the chair seemed to have remained in the laboratory with Casper and Kat the whole time; unless there was a second chair to begin with.
When she allows Casper to come alive again until ten, Amelia tells Casper, when he asks why Cinderella got until midnight, that "Cinderella wasn't twelve years old." Earlier in the film when Casper is explaining his death to Kat, the camera goes over a bunch of newspaper articles and one says "pneumonia claims life of 12 yr. old boy."The film's "rules" for its supernatural elements are somewhat vague and contradictory. The most obvious example of this is the fact that ghosts in the film can pass through solid object, yet seem to be capable of interacting with physical objects whenever they so choose, although this contradiction had previously appeared in Casper comics and cartoons.
The other plot holes involving cosmic "rules" that will be mentioned in this section are unique to this film. According to the film, ghosts are souls of the deceased who have "unfinished business" on Earth. The reason Casper stayed behind as a ghost is explained to be the fact that he was needed to keep his grieving father company, but his father is now long dead, so there is no obvious reason for Casper to remain a ghost. A possible explanation is that he simply forgot about what he was doing in Earth: in one scene, he seems to remember that for the first time in a long time. His "unfinished business" could've also changed. The characters who become ghosts during the course of the film appear as "cartoonalized" or “Caricatured” versions of the live-action actors and, thus, have hair and articles of clothing, which the other ghosts do not have. Carrigan Crittenden's ghost is physically larger then the other ghosts and speaks in slightly modulated voice, making her seem more powerful and intimidating. while Dr. James Harvey's ghost is about the size of the other ghosts and speaks in his normal voice.
Carrigan's hair is also brown as a ghost, while blonde as a human. Although this is seen as a contradiction, it may be a pointed joke that Carrigan is not a real blonde. The ghosts of characters who die during the film are voiced by the same actors who play them in live-action, while, when Casper is brought back to life, he is not played by the same actor who voiced him in his ghostly form. Another feature that happens to ghosts in the film after they die (particullaly Carrigan, Casper, and Dr. Harvey) is that they appear to forget eveything about their life until something incredibly familiar reawakens their memory. After dying, Carrigan only remembers that she wanted to get the treasure. It isn’t until she see Dibs holding the Lazarus capsule that she again remembers everything. However, it is suggested that Casper and his uncles have been dead for almost a century, which means that perhaps ghosts lose their memories over time. This however does not explain Dr. Harvey's amnesia. One could make a point that he (Dr. Harvey) forgets simply because he was very inebriated when he died and was still drunk as a ghost. Causing him to forget certain things.After Dr. Harvey is brought back to life, there should be two Dr. Harveys, one alive and one dead. The film never explains what happened to Dr. Harvey's dead body. It could be suggested that the potion that made the machine work actually created a new body for the ghost to dwell in. The movie also never addresses what happens to Carrigan’s dead body. The heiress dies on mansion property and it is unclear who the property would be turned over to now that she is dead.
The film was generally well-received as a family feature, with Time Out London describing it as "an intimate and likeable film". The CGI effects, which were cutting edge at the time, and the performances of Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci were especially praised, especially considering that, in the scenes where the Harveys interact with the ghosts, Pullman and Ricci were actually acting with nothing.
Cathy Moriarty's performance, however, was much criticized, with Variety saying she does "a poor woman's Cruella de Vil" in the movie. Many reviewers also felt that Eric Idle, being a venerable comedian, was underused in the role of Moriarty's obsequious henchman. Some critics also felt it was a mistake for the film to juxtapose cartoon-esque comedy with serious themes about death. The critics felt that for a kids movie, Carrigan’s slapstick death and becoming a ghost to get her greedy hands on treasure Was in poor tast. Especially when her ghost is forced to cross over for eternity. Nevertheless, the film was a success at the box office, grossing $100 million in the United States, almost twice its budget, and $326 million worldwide.
The film continues to be shown on television in the family feature slot of many networks, especially around Halloween and Christmas.
|Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided. Please relocate any relevant information into appropriate sections or articles. (June 2007)|
- Dr. Harvey and Kat's surname is a reference to Harvey Comics, which created Casper the Friendly Ghost.
- In the film, McFadden is revealed to be Casper's last name.
- The sequel tv series mentions that Casper is 112 years old, turning 113 in April. It also mentions that Casper took an interest in baseball after he died because he used to travel around collecting Baseball Players autographs.
- The machine that brings ghosts back to life is obviously named for Lazarus, a man in the New Testament whom Jesus brought back to life. Furthermore, the button that activates the Lazarus is hidden inside a false copy of Frankenstein, which was about a scientist attempting to bring the dead back to life.
- This is the only Casper film in which the main villain is a normal human, rather than a ghost or a human with supernatural powers, although she does become a ghost at the end of the film. This is also the only one where the villain is female.
- Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, the late Rodney Dangerfield and The Crypt Keeper all make a cameo appearance as persons Dr. Harvey morphs into when the Ghostly Trio invade his body with the Crypt Keeper doing a pose from Edvard Munch's The Scream painting. Dangerfield also played the mayor in Casper: A Spirited Beginning.
- Cathy Moriarty returned to the Casper franshise in Casper Meets Wendy, where she plays one of Wendy's bossy aunts.
- Dan Aykroyd cameos as Ray Stantz of Ghostbusters fame, when Carrigan attempts to remove the Ghostly Trio from Whipstaff Manor. ("Who you gonna call? Someone else.")
- Don Novello makes a cameo appearance as his character Father Guido Sarducci (of Saturday Night Live fame) as one of the would-be ghost exterminators.
- Later in the film, during the Halloween party scene, you can hear Digital Underground's Same Old Song playing in the background. This was the headline song for the film Nothing But Trouble (1991), which Dan Aykroyd, wrote, directed, and starred in.
- When Casper is seen flipping through channels, one channel shows a cartoon woman shouted "g-g-ghost!" This was taken from the Casper cartoon "Once Upon A Rhyme."
- The film's theme song, "Remember Me This Way", was a major hit on the radio in 1995.
- Feature-film directing debut of Brad Silberling, who would go on to direct City of Angels and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
- Director Silberling and Amy Brenneman (Amelia Harvey) were married in 1995.
- For a while in 2001, there were rumors of a theatrical sequel titled Casper II. The rumors turned out to be false and thus far a proper sequel to this film has not been made. One is unlikely given that the sets built for this film would have probably been destroyed and that Christina Ricci has since well outgrown her character.
- The international theatrical distributor of Casper, United International Pictures, is a joint venture of Universal and Paramount Pictures, which distributed the original Casper theatrical short cartoons.
- When the Harveys arrive at the house, Dr. Harvey said it was a pretty good home, and Kat says "For Stephen King maybe".
- Both Carrigan and Dr. Harvey became ghosts in the same manner: By falling to their deaths.
- When Kat walks into the Ghostly Trio's room and reads their names, she says "I wonder where Doc and Dopey sleep."
- The scene where Casper tied Kat's classmates shoelaces together, Casper did the same thing to a group of football playing bullies in the Casper cartoon short "Line of Screamage"
- This is the first film to feature a CGI character as the main lead.
- This film became the 8th highest grossing film of 1995 behind Toy Story, Batman Forever, Apollo 13, Pocahontas, Waterworld and Seven and before Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, GoldenEye and Jumanji.
- Even when The Harvey Entertainment Company was acquired by Classic Media in 2001, the rights to this film were retained directly by Universal Pictures as this film and Casper Meets Wendy (the latter being distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) were the only Casper films not sold to Classic Media.
|Direct-to-Video/Television films||Casper: A Spirited Beginning | Casper Meets Wendy | Casper's Haunted Christmas | Casper's Scare School|